The dairy industry took a trip down memory lane for this week's launch in Taranaki of one of the country's most prestigious farming competitions.
The launch of the 2014 New Zealand Dairy Awards also initiated the 25th anniversary of the New Zealand Sharemilker of the Year. The inaugural title was won by Taranaki couple Diane and Kevin Goble who now own dairy farms at Okato and Waverley.
The Taranaki Sharemilker of the Year was the first contest of its kind in New Zealand when it was established in 1977.
The hall at the Stratford A&P Association showgrounds was a fitting venue for the launch, with its timber floors and old-style decor.
Taking pride of place in the hall was the lectern on a raised platform of pallets. Quart bottles of beer and fish and chips served on newsprint-covered tables were reminiscent of the awards dinners for the early contests.
Dairy Industry Awards chairman Gavin Roden of Waiuku said the function was about providing an insight into the origins and purpose of the awards.
"This competition has identified and developed New Zealand dairy industry leaders. Lots of people on industry organisations across the country have had an association with the competition."
The contest had come a long way since it was established in 1977.
"It's important to look back because learning from the past helps to build the future," Mr Roden said.
Murray Cross, now of New Plymouth, was farming at Ngaere in Central Taranaki when he thought a competition for sharemilkers would provide them with a way to present themselves to the farming industry.
The Sharemilker of the Year contest had grown its own folklore, Mr Cross said. He noted that the number of Taranaki entries had remained consistent at 18 during the competition's 36-year history in the province.
New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Trust trustee and 2008 New Zealand Sharemilker of the Year winner Ben Allomes said that when he entered the contest for the first time in 2003, he didn't even show the judges his cows because they were at the back of the farm.
"We were green as grass, but we were hooked."
The strength of the awards was a reflection of the strength of the dairy industry, Mr Allomes said.
Diane Goble said the 25 years since their national win had gone by so fast: "Now we realise what an honour it was to win."
Kevin Goble said they had enjoyed the challenges of dairy farming and the experience of working side-by-side with two of their three sons working in the industry.
"The contest gives you a profile among your peers and confidence to move and grow in the industry," Mr Goble said.
Former New Zealand Federated Farmers dairy chairman Mark Masters of Stratford said it was a no-brainer for the organisation to sponsor the contest. The sponsors had been extremely loyal and received value from it because the organisers ensured they did.
"The future of the awards is as assured as the dairy industry itself," Mr Masters said.
Marton dairy farmer Gavin Maughan, aka Mr Sharemilker, who now organises the annual study tour for finalists in the dairy trainee sector, said the contest got into the blood. "People are always there to help and that's what I love abut the competition - and the way it can have an impact on young people in the industry.
"Entering the contest is the start of the learning as you reassess your business and get outsiders to scrutinise what you do."
Among the 70 guests at the launch were New Plymouth and South Taranaki district mayors Andrew Judd and Ross Dunlop, Fonterra directors Blue Read and David MacLeod, previous New Zealand Sharemilker of the Year winners, Bryn and Marise James, of New Plymouth, and former Taranaki winners Louis and Barbara Kuriger.
Entries for the awards open on November 1.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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